Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

All Fukudap

Normally I try to avoid political postings on this site, but...

Well, Yasuo Fukuda has gone and shown the world that he is just one of a long line of Japanese prime ministers that lack anything resembling a backbone.  When he was first chosen prime minister there were a lot of alarms ringing on account of his background as well as the track record of his father, who held cabinet positions before and during World War II and was prime minister from 1976 to 1978.  However, Yasuo turned out to be a typically weak prime minister who accomplished very little during his almost-one-year in office.

Yasuo Fukuda made Japan's Asian neighbors happy by not visiting Yasukuni Shrine (see the shrine's own English-language website here), a controversial (and technically illegal) religious/nationalist activity practiced by many if not most of his predecessors.  He also made the U.S. happy by opting to override the complaints of the opposition and continue sending Japanese Marine Self-Defense Force ships to help refuel and resupply coalition naval vessels involved in the War on TerrorTM.   However, on the home front he will probably be best remembered for his vehement insistence on reinstating an expired supplementary gasoline tax the opposition parties hoped to get rid of to help stimulate the still-sagging economy.  The prime minister's argument in support of the tax was only that local governments had already figured it into their yearly budgets, which does make sense until you realize that an awfully large percentage of that money tends to be earmarked for pork projects.  By ignoring the opposition and the general public and fighting to keep the extra tax, the prime minister implied that he puts more value on bureaucrats, corporations, and the status quo then on the people.  Small wonder, then, that his approval rating never managed to get higher than 30%.

Fukuda says that it was his own decision to leave.  Frustrated with his persistently low approval rating and increasingly heated battles with the opposition, he reportedly said, "Get someone else."  The problem is who that "someone else" is liable to be.  The most likely candidate for the next prime minister right now is Taro Aso, and that would definitely be cause to worry.  Aso was the Foreign Minister under Prime Minister Koizumi, and during that time he had a bad habit of putting his foot in his mouth, particularly with regard to foreign policy.  He has always been very conservative and even rightist in his views (despite being a baptized Catholic) and takes an aggressively hardline stance with Japan's Asian neighbors.  Moreover, some of the things he has said on the record seem reckless if not downright daft, for example:

In 2005 he praised Japan for having "one nation, one civilization, one language, and one race," and claimed it was the only such country in the world.   (Simple nationalism or an argument for eugenics?)

Later that same year, talking about Japan's Middle East policy, he said, "The Japanese were trusted because they had never been involved in exploitation there, or been involved in fights or fired machine guns. Japan is doing what the Americans can't do. It would probably be no good to have blue eyes and blond hair. Luckily, we Japanese have yellow faces."  (Racism can be such a funny thing...)

In 2006 he called for the Emperor to visit Yasukuni Shrine, which hasn't happened since the war.  (Simple nationalism, or a veiled implication that it's time to scrap Japan's American-made, post-war constitution?)

Later that same year he claimed that the Japanese colonization of Taiwan and imposition of compulsory Japanese education there had been "a good thing".  (Yes, never mind the discrimination, the atrocities, the attempt to exterminate one culture and replace it with another...everything else was good!) 

Later that same year he referred to Taiwan as a "law-abiding country," contradicting official Japanese policy and infuriating China.  On earlier occasions he had directly described China as a "threat" and even implied that China was gearing up for war.  (Yeah, screw official policy.  Let's give our giant neighbor a nice kick in the butt and hope he'll run away whimpering!)

Are we sure we want this guy at the helm of Japan's government?  Fukuda, is it even remotely possible for you to grow some family jewels instead?


  • wow... this new guy sounds a lot like Bush. And you wouldn't think there'd be two of these in the world... but obviously so! ;)

    By Blogger Um Naief, at 9:02 PM  

  • Idiocracy seems to be a global phenomenon. Since it affects both the US and Japan, it must be something in the Pocky.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 2:15 AM  

  • (Sounds like Bush)

    Actually, taxes in the US are lower now than they will be when the tax cut expires. The problem is spending. First, we lose about 700 billion dollars a year to foreign oil companies. The National Debt is now past 9 trillion dollars. The US economy only genereates 3 trillion dollars a year. Bush can be blamed for all the money spent in Iraq, but if we hadn't spent the money to rebuild, the war would still be going on strong instead of tapering off as it is now, FINALLY!

    But a lot of spending can be blamed on earmarks and rampant spending by congress, both republicans and democrats alike.

    Yasuo Fukuda:
    I can't speak alot about Japanese tradition and politics because I don't live there. But I think what weakens most Japanese politicians is trying to adopt a foreign style of government to a culture not suited for it.

    As Britian, France, Spain, and the US marched around the globe offering their own idea of democracy, they assume that the countries they take over are mature enough for self governance.

    Self governance requires an educated populace. THat is why education in the US is being dumbed down, because an uneducated population is easier to control and manipulate. Now, Japan's education is pretty good, and has been known to surpass the US in many cases. Yet the history of deocracy in Japan only goes back to 1948. US demacracy goes back to the Revolutionary war.

    I would be curious to here Moody, what the Japanese students in your scholl think of the occupation, and General Douglas McArthur.

    Sorry for being long winded.

    By Anonymous Dave, at 8:14 AM  

  • Sorry for the spelling too. Yikes

    By Anonymous Dave, at 8:16 AM  

  • Um Naief
    Funny, a lot of people thought Prime Minister Abe (the PM before Fukuda who lasted about as long) was a lot like Bush. He certainly made a lot of promises to revamp the economy in Japan but then put almost all his attention on foreign affairs. Fukuda is a lot harder to understand simply because he is far less vocal. He almost seemed to be governing in the background and not really taking action on anything...except reinstating the "temporary" extra gas tax and continuing the MSDF support of the U.S. Navy.

    Or is it all those anime?

    I'm a little confused by your statement, "...they assume that the countries they take over are mature enough for self governance."

    Um...weren't these countries governing themselves before they were taken over? Or are you referring specifically to a democratic style of government?

    As far as how my students feel about the occupation and General McArthur, I'm not really sure, but students I've had in the past tended to be totally oblivious to it. It's basically a non-issue. In fact, in Japan politics in general is regarded as something for the over-50 crowd; younger people rarely pay any attention to politics, let alone vote or participate in any kind of campaigning or activism. (Well, there are radical rightists and leftists among college students, but they are an extreme minority generally ridiculed by their peers.)

    Ironically, some of Japan's most problematic laws (e.g. imperial succession limited to males, the ban on full-frontal nudity in publication, the ban on fielding any kind of military even for defense, companies being almost exempt from the law) were imposed by the U.S. occupation, many of them by McArthur himself. Though loopholes were found for some of those laws long ago (e.g. the SDF, which technically is a police force rather than a military despite being the 9th largest fighting force in the world), many of them are only now starting to be rolled back. Many if not most people are very much against those laws, and always have been, but the under-50 crowd has always just left it up to their seniors to take care of everything.

    Education in Japan seems to be dumbing down, too, but probably not for the same reasons. The problem here is that making any kind of effort is unfashionable. People don't really try to accomplish anything for fear of ridicule, so academic performance has plummeted.

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 1:26 PM  

  • I hope they find someone other than Mr. "one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture, and one race, the like of which there is no other on this earth" - Taro Aso - to replace Fukuda.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 4:57 PM  

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